It’s going to be a tough road, but fifth-year head coach Collin Epstein thinks his Tallmadge girls basketball team can compete for the Suburban League American Conference championship this season.
"Aurora has won back-to-back titles," said Epstein, who is 52-44 with the Blue Devils. "Barberton lost a decent amount of girls, but they had a real good junior varsity team last year, so I know they have some depth. Revere is returning a decent amount of players and has some size. Copley should have a quality team, as well.
"But with four returning letter winners who played a lot of varsity basketball last year, we’re going to be fundamentally sound offensively and defensively," he continued. "We don’t have the depth to play very fast, but if we have an opportunity to run in transition, we’ll get the ball and go. We’ll also do a good job of getting back on defense and staying out of foul trouble."
Tallmadge will try to withstand the loss of guard Sara Johnson to graduation last spring. The Blue Devils will aim to improve on last season’s 14-11 overall record and 6-6 mark in the American Conference.
The four returning letter winners Epstein spoke of are Lizzie Bickar, Jordyn Severns, Andreana Gotto and Jill Catalano.
Bickar, a junior point guard, earned first-team all-conference honors in 2017-18. She averaged 12.1 points per game last winter.
"We’re expecting a lot of big things from Lizzie," Epstein said. "She sees the court well and distributes the ball well. She’ll knock down an open shot and she’s very active defensively."
Severns, a junior shooting guard, was named to the all-conference second team. She averaged a team-leading 12.2 points per game last season.
"Jordyn was our top shooter last year," Epstein said. "She’s a good outside shooter."
A senior guard/forward, Gotto received honorable mention accolades on the all-conference team.
"Andreana is a good, solid player," Epstein said. "She can drive to the hoop and finish. She understands the game and passes the ball well. She’s a good teammate, too."
Catalano is a junior forward/center.
"Jill is a hard worker," Epstein said. "She does all the little things as far as rebounding, hustling and just supporting her teammates. She finishes around the hoop well also. She puts forth a high-energy effort."
Three players who will be key contributors are freshman center Addie Bowman, sophomore guard Heather Baxter and junior guard Rae Lya Sibley.
Also on the team are sophomores Gia Currey, a guard/forward and Chloie Brown, a guard.
Epstein’s assistant coaches are Brett Bickar and Emilee Whitaker.
Tallmadge is scheduled to open its season against Akron Buchtel Nov. 28 at James O. Maddox Court. Play is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
The Blue Devils are set to begin American Conference play with a home date against Aurora Dec. 1 at 2:30 p.m.